Kids perform better at schools that ban phones, study says

Technically Incorrect: A UK study suggests that schoolkids' performance significantly improves when they can't get hold of a phone at school. It also showed that low-achieving students improved the most.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

Put it away and be smarter? What a concept. Sabina Argueta/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Have you ever wondered whether smartphones can make your kids smarter?

Yes, they make them smarter at Snapchat and Candy Crush, but do they help them crunch a math problem with greater mental alacrity?

One survey suggests not.

Performed by the London School of Economics -- an institution that didn't kick me out -- this piece of research suggested that in schools than ban phones, 16-year-olds performed better by a potentially crucial 6.41 percent.

The study, titled Ill Communication: Technology, Distraction & Student Performance (PDF), looked at four English cities and concluded that it was those of lesser natural gifts who benefited most from their school ensuring that they couldn't play with phones in class.

The researchers looked simply at the timing of phone bans being introduced and then compared test scores before and after.

They were very clear as to their reasoning: "A highly multipurpose technology, such as mobile phones, can have a negative impact on productivity through distraction."

It doesn't sound like science when it feels like common sense.

It's not as if adults are immune from such being distracted by phones. We sit on trains, in buses and bars and even in meetings, courtrooms and parliaments, merrily staring at our phones and discovering videos of rabbits who can sing like Maria Callas.

In this study, those students deemed low-achieving actually benefited from a cell phone ban by scoring 14.23 percent better on their tests.

This puts into interesting focus a recent story from Philadelphia, in which a school principal explained to a parent that the school would keep a child's confiscated iPhone 6 for weeks. Dad was not happy. But surely he might be happier if his daughter did surprisingly well.

The LSE researchers estimated that the improvement in performance was the equivalent of five additional days being added to the school year.

Perhaps some enterprising schools should try threatening to lengthen the school year by five days, unless parents agree to a phone ban.

Which parent, faced with the prospect of five more days of their kids whining about school, wouldn't support such a proposal with an uplifted heart?

(Via the Guardian)